In a lot of ways, it doesn't make sense that women are disproportionately left out of the STEM workforce. Consider the following: Only about one in seven engineers is a woman, yet women earn 50 percent of all science and engineering bachelor's degrees. In high school, women take math and science classes in similar numbers as men. And historically, throughout all levels of education, girls perform the same or better than boys in math and science.
So what counts for the extreme lack of gender parity? A large part of that might be discrimination in the workforce.
Researchers at Columbia Business School recently published a paper that shows a clear bias against women in mathematics, but also suggests the variables that can lessen the impact of that bias.
"In our setting" the authors write, "women were only half as likely to be hired as men, because they were (erroneously) perceived as less talented" on a math test. "Both men and women expected women to perform worse."
Here's how they found it out.
The researchers had study participants take a math test, and then randomly chose two of the participants to play the role of a job "candidate." The rest of the participants then acted as "employers." From there, the task was simple: The employers were asked to choose the candidate who would be the best for future math tests. If they chose correctly — that is, actually chose the person with the better score — they'd receive increased compensation for the study.